I always used to say too much and you never seemed to say enough. And between us we never managed to say anything at all.
I haven’t written a prose post in a while. To say it’s been a crazy past few months is an understatement, but this week has seen me on the East Coast for about a week in a half. Just in the past 5 days, my views on educational reform, Teach For America, and my role in the movement have been challenged, pushed, and grown exponentially. I am so happy, excited, and immensely urgent to make sure that all children (and keiki) have the opportunity to achieve great things and get the education they deserve.
Right now, though (literally, as I type this), I am at Teach For America’s Latino Summit in partnership with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. I already feel so much love and support from my #tfamilia about my voice in this work, and in doing that, we’ve been asked to reflect on the following questions:
1) What is your authentic leadership?
2) How will you go about actualizing it?
Both are questions I know I am not ready to fully answer, but my immediate opening thoughts go to a few key statements about myself that I am still trying to embrace and grapple with:
I am mixed, and the means I have a racial and ethnic identity that is both beautiful, but also complex. I need to figure out what that means.
I grew up privileged, which is the result of my parents hard work to overcome struggle. While I look like many of the students in the communities that we teach, I didn’t share the experiences they may have had socio-economically. That’s okay too. Being an authentic leader means that I have to own that I was able to grow up outside the cycle of poverty that affected generations of my family. Again, that is something that is a barrier to fully understanding the background of my students, but also doesn’t devalue my ability to be a leader in my community.
I love to share, discuss, tweet, yam, tumbl, and facebook my experiences. I feel like, sometimes, people I meet (including in the edreform world) devalue or judge the use of social media, as though it’s beneath what we consider “serious work.” Still, there are a number of revolutionary leaders, including in Teach For America, who value that sharing as part of building community. Who see sharing their personal lives not as a sign of over-sharing or overstepping privacy, but instead as a way to build trust and companionship between people. In addition to that, the future leaders of America? Of the next generation? I’m gonna guess quite a few of them are in the social media world too.
Being an authentic leader doesn’t mean I should hide the fact that I love to share my experiences or share the voices of others, but instead means that I should celebrate it’s assets and work to change the mindsets of those I encounter that have that opinion (when it is appropriate. People have a right to have their own opinions too).
That’s cute, but how are you going to do those things?
Firstly, it’s time to start self-advocating. I am certainly in a learning curve where I need to get better at not-sucking at my job and growing a lot of parts of myself (like my organization). That said, I do have insights and ideas that are important to start offering, and I need to make the choice that, there are ideas I want to share that I’m scared might not be popular (though they may also be!), they should still be put out there.
Secondly, it also means taking a step back to learn from my community. Hawai’i needs to stop being that foreign paradise I somehow found myself in. I need to let it become home for however long that means, and start digging into that work.
Ok, alumni panel time!